Saturday, August 27, 2011

EKADASI

Ekadasi is a ritualistic observance practiced by Hindus living all over the world.On this day they pray Lord Vishnu and seek his bliss.Vaishnavas consider this day as very auspicious and follows the observances very strictly.There are two Ekadasis in every month one each in the two lunar fortnights.
The meaning of Ekadasi is 'Eleventh day..It refers to the eleventh day that follows the 'Pournami day(full moon day) and the eleventh day that follows the Amavasi day(No moon day).On this day we have to observe fasting from the dawn to the next day dawn by omitting all kinds of food in solid form and liquid form including drinking water also..No meals should be taken before starting the 'vrat'.(Fasting) in the morning.People who are in good health may consume one time meal on the previous day also.
Astrologers say that we are influenced by Sun,Moon and other planets.The energy emitted by these celestial bodies have its own influence on us.All of our body parts are affected by the Sun's rays and its energy where as the Moon's energy affect our 'mind'.We know that the moon is revolving round the earth,Earth,Other planets and all their moons are revolving round the Sun.The Sun,planets and moons are revolving round an energy source in the 'milky way'.The milky way in whole is revolving round some other energy source and so on.As a living being and as part of this universe unknowingly we are also influenced by the movements and energy variations of these heavenly bodies.We know that on full moon day when the moon is nearer to us there is high tide in the oceans and on no moon day there is low tide.Mental patients show variations in their behavior on full moon day and no moon day.Normal person is unaware of it but it does not mean that moon is not influencing us.The exertion of gravitational force on us on the eleventh day will be null and that may be the reason why Ekadasi is selected for this ritual.
We also know that the type of food we eat will  influence our thoughts and actions.By avoiding  food and drinks on Ekadasi day  our mind becomes undisturbed from external and internal forces..We will get much more concentration for  meditation.In 'Bhagawad Gita' Lord Krishna urged us to Practice meditation.Keep our mind concentrated on the lotus feet of Lord Vishnu and sit in 'Padmasana' or in any other posture for as much time as possible.Or otherwise thinking affectionately about Lord Vishnu or Lord Krishna Chant their names or mantras.Chant 'Om Namo Narayanaya' so many times during leisure times  and recite 'Vishnu Sahasra Nama' once during the day.
Now a days everybody is busy  and by ignoring two days of work and responsibilities  every month for observing these kinds of observances will be difficult. Such people can do this observance  by taking milk only and if it is also not possible for them, still  Ekadasi can be observed by taking milk and fruits.Avoid any other type of food or drinks.Rice,Wheat,Cereals,oil,Chilly,honey etc has to be avoided.It is better for patients and  weak persons also to practice Ekadasi by consuming milk and fruits.Keep away from all kinds of immoral deeds and activities.We can break the fast on the following day 48 minutes after sun rise.
There is a story that when Lord Vishnu tried to kill a fierce demon by name 'Mura' he hided in cereals but God found him and killed.This happened on an Ekadasi day and the devotees of Lord Vishnu avoided rice,wheat and all cereals on that day.
Scientifically also once in a fortnight giving rest to our body and mind including digestive system is beneficial.
There are twenty four Ekadasis in an year.There is a particular name given to each of these Ekadasi days.Some of these Ekadasi days are considered more important like 'Vaikunta Ekadasi'.At Guruvayur temple one of these Ekadasis is celebrated in a grand manner known as 'Guruvayur Ekadasi'.By observing Ekadasi it is believed that God will forgive our sins and we will attain Moksha(eternal peace for ever, without rebirth) after this life on earth.



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

SRIKRISHNA JAYANTHI

Jagadmandir,Dwaraka
Srikrishna Janmashtami, Ashtami Rohini,Srikrishna Jayanthi, Janmashtami- all refers to the birthday  of Lord Srikrishna.Scholars have calculated that Srikrishna was born on July 19th Wednesday midnight in the year 3227B.C.He was the 9th incarnation of Lord Vishnu.He was born in a prison cell in Mathura city  of U.P. during the reign of King Kansa.King Kansa was a cruel person who was hated by the people.Krishna was born to his sister Devaki and Vasudev.At the time of marriage of Devaki, Kansa heard a heavenly voice that eighth child of Devaki would kill him.Horrified Kansa put Devaki and Vasudev in prison and killed their children soon after their birth.Six infants were killed, the seventh one
Balram was transfered to Rohini's womb (another wife of Vasudev) by God and thus saved.Srikrishna, the eighth child was interchanged with newborn baby girl of Yasoda of 'Gokulam' and also saved.Kansa when came to know that the eighth child was not a boy but a girl still tried to kill her.But that infant slipped out of his hand, rose above his head in the sky and said that his enemy had already taken birth and vanished. That baby girl was Mother goddess.Kansa ordered demons to kill all the new born babies in the country.'Poothana' a demoness arrived at Gokulam to kill the infant Krishna but Krishna killed her.When several demons and crooked people arrived to disturb their life  they shifted to another place 'Vrindavan'.At Vrindavan Krishna killed Bakasura,Aghasura,Dhanuka etc.By lifting the Govardhana hill he protected the herds of cows, other animals and birds  as well as the people of Vrindavan from heavy rain.He tamed the highly poisonous serpent 'Kalia' and ordered it to go away from river Yamuna.
Later he went to the palace upon invitation from the King for a wrestling and in that fight killed Kansa.
Krishna then  stayed in the house of Sage 'Sandipani' and mastered in all art forms.Afterwards he went to Gujarat and established his own Kingdom in 'Dwaraka' with his brother.Rukmini and Sathyabhama were Krishna's  main wives.When he was 125 years  old  he decided to end his mission.He went to the forest and sat down under a tree in meditation,A hunter  seeing his foot  through the bushes mistook it as a deer and.sent his arrow which struck on Krishna's foot.Lord Krishna disappeared to heaven in the night of that full moon day on 18th February 3102 B.C.
Govardhan Temple,Mathura
Lord Vishnu took the Avathar of Lord Krishna to kill so many demons who were disturbing the peace of common man and to kill other fierce,crooked and cruel people so as   to eradicate evil.By helping the Pandavas in the battle of Kurukshetra without handling any weapon or killing directly anybody, his tact and tactics and advices to deploy the army helped Pandavas win the battle.Krishna's aim was to cause the death of several wicked and cruel Kings on Kaurava side.He showed the world that ultimately only truth will win.
All the main Gurus of archery,Kripacharya,Dronacharya,Bhishmacharya,Great Karnan, etc were on Kaurava side but had to fail because there was no 'justice' on their side to safe guard them
At the begining of the war seeing relatives and respected Gurus on the other side Arjuna lost his vigour,put aside his weapons and thought not to fight.Krishna inspired  him and his advices to Arjuna were written by sage Vyasa later on  as 'Bhagawad Gita' and it was included in the epic Mahabharatha.
Krishana's teachings are relevant and apt for todays life also.He instruct not to involve in any act which is unfit for the society.Do not think about or act any kind of destructive deeds. To do hard work with dedication is our obligation and do not think about rewards.For your good actions the rewards will be given by God.Every human being should practice meditation which keeps our mind calm and it is the method to see our inner soul.
Guruvayoor Temple,Kerala
Dwarakadhish Temple,Mathura
There are so many other teachings of Lord Krishna which can be found in 'Bhagavatham' and 'Bhagawad Gita'.
Srikrishna may be the Hindu God form who is most affectionately loved,respected and admired by the devotees.May be because in his human form he had displayed several mischievous pranks in the childhood and so
when approaching him people don't have any fear factor.People think that 'to err is human' which Lord Krishna knows very well and so he will forgive our minor mistakes.It is believed that Krishna is very fond of milk,butter,curd and sweets made from milk such as Pedha,Kher,Srikhand etc and because of that in North Indian states on Janmashtami day they prepare all kinds of sweets including Laddu and Jilebi and serve to him.Most of the devotees observe fasting from morning to evening or up to midnight there.Chanting bhajans,puja rituals,adorning the idol of Bhagawan,placing the idol in a decorated cradle and rocking it are all performed there.In all the states Janmashtami is celebrated and the celebration may vary accordingly.
In Kerala  on the day prior to Ashtami Rohini day in the evening 'Uriyadi' is held by which children in Krishna's makeup has to hit and break hanging pots of milk or curd with a stick.On the Janmashtami day morning and evening time people visit temples,Krishna temple in particular.Many people observe fasting till evening or till midnight.In all Krishna temples there will be special pooja rituals at midnight in which large number of people participate..It is believed that by observing fasting up to midnight and not to sleep till dawn on the next day, our sins of several births will be removed by the God.Kerala people prepare 'Palpayasam' and 'Unniyappam'(Sweet Items) on Janmashtami day and offer to Krishna in their Pooja rooms.
Janmashtami falls on the eighth day of the second lunar fortnight(krishna paksham,which comes after the full moon day) in the month of Chingam in Kerala(It is called Sravan in North India).
The organisation 'Bala Gokulam' conducts 'Sobha Yathra' in all important places of Kerala on Janmashtami day afternoon by which colorful procession with dance, music, floats, etc takes place.In the procession thousands of children with masks and makeup of different characters like,Krishna,Radha,Vasudeva,Yasoda,Lord Vishnu,Lord Siva,Lord Hanuman,Lord Ganapathy, Sage Viswamitra,Sage Narada etc etc take part which creates much pageantry and large number of people gather on the road sides to watch it.




Friday, August 12, 2011

VALLAM KALI

Since Kerala is blessed with 44 rivers and many lakes water transport was commonly used here with wooden canoes.Different types of rowing boats were used with varied sizes and shapes according to the uses required by them.For example for transporting goods, big sized boats were used which were known as 'Kettu Vallams'.Like that Churulan Vallam,Iruttukuthy,Veppu Vallam,Kothumbu Vallam etc were in use which could carry a single person or up to 50 people.Snake boats(Chundan Vallam) are the longest and biggest among these which can hold average 100
oars men.The princely states Thekkum Koor,Vadakkum Koor,Chembakasserry etc were having 'Navy' with snake boats also.The snake boats might had been built for military purposes in the first instance.Now a days Kettu Vallams were converted to house boats and other types of boats are used for entertainment purpose only.
Kerala people enjoy the regatta very much and ONAM period is famous for  boat festivals also.
Usually this festival period is for two months -August and September.There will be so many famous boat races in many parts of Kerala mainly in Travancore area.
The boat races begin with 'Champakkulam Moolam Boat race' which is in the Mithunam month (July) every year.All types of boats including snake boats participate in this boat race at Champakkulam river on that day.This festival  is related to the 'Ambalapuzha Sree Krishna Temple'.Chempakesseri Maharajah .Pooradam Thirunal Devanarayanan  constructed the temple at Ambalapuzha and  while bringing the sacred Idol of the temple
in a rowing boat they took rest at night in the premises of an eminent Christian family of Champakkulam.The next day the head of that family and other villagers including representatives of the Maharajah  accompanied in several boats to take the Idol to Ambalapuzha as a procession.To commemorate this auspicious event the Champakkulam Boat race is held on the day the Krishna idol was consecrated in the temple.Before commencing the 'Vallam Kali' the temple authorities visit that residence at Champakkulam with gift articles known as 'Moolakkazcha'.That family members receive them with affection and give them a feast also.In that house there is an ever glowing oil lamp kept in reverence where the Sree Krishna Idol was kept at night five hundred years back.This is also an example to signify the religious harmony prevailing in this state.In Kerala most of the festivals are celebrated by Hindus,Christians and Muslims together.
Like that 'Paippad' Vallamkali(regatta) has connection with the 'Harippad Subramanya Swamy Temple'.
The idol of this temple was found from Kayamkulam river where there was a whirlpool to identify the spot  and the recovered Idol was brought to the temple in a procession.The fiesta continued for three days and still this water festival is the longest one in Kerala which extends for consecutive three days.
Kumarakom boat race is held on Sree Narayana Guru Jayanthi day.(Birthday Of Sree Narayana Guru).
All types of boats are participated but importance is given to 'Iruttukuthy' type boats here.Sree Narayana Guru started a temple and School there in 1903A.D and he was greeted and taken in a procession of many boats.From that year onwards this festival is held there.
The mega event of all boat races is the 'Nehru Trophy Boat Race' which is held on second saturday of August every year at Punnamada Lake in Alapuzha.A boat race was arranged at Alapuzha when first Prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru visited Kerala in 1952.The overjoyed Nehruji climbed on one snake boat also.He sent back a Silver trophy with his signature after returning to Delhi and a boat race was started from next year in the name 'Prime Minister's Trophy Boat race'.Later the name was changed to 'Nehru Trophy Boat Race'.Spectators from all over India and abroad come to witness this great event.This year Nehru Trophy Boat race is on 13th August 2011, Saturday.
The most colorful Boat race is  'Aranmula Boat Race' which is held every year at Aranmula,of Pathanamthitta district, in river Pampa near  Parthasarathy Temple.This is held  on the 4th day after Thiruvonam.The snake boats used in and around Alapuzha are called as 'Chundan Vallam' only where as the snake boats used at Aranmula are known as 'Chundan Vallam' and also 'Palliyodam'.These boats have direct connection to the Aranmula Temple and are considered sacred .The helm of Aranmula Palliyodams are 20feet high where as for common 'Chundan Vallam' it is smaller.The end part of Aranmula Palliyodam is curved upwards above water level and in Alapuzha Chundan Vallam it is horizontal to the water level.The Alapuzha Chundan Vallam go faster but Aranmula Palliyodams are designed to go slowly and majestically.There are around 50 snake boats under 'Aranmula Palliyoda Seva Sangham'.(The society of Aranmula group snake boats).It is believed that all the Pandava Princes established Vishnu Temples in Kerala which are now situated in and around Chengannur.They are Thrichittattu temple in Chengannur,Vishnu Temple at Puliyoor in Chengannur,Aranmula Temple,Thiruvanvandoor Temple and Thrikodithanam temple.Arjuna established temple at Nilakkal which was shifted to Aranmula 1000years ago.As usual the idol was brought in a procession in which so many boats participated.To commemorate it,this festival is held on Idol's consecration day which was on 'Uthrittati' day.More over it is believed that Arjuna's birthday is also Uthrittathi day.From 'Ranny' to 'Keezhvanmazhy'  many sub- division of villages known as 'Kara' on the banks of river  Pampa owns,maintains and use these Palliyodams for the Aranmula temple  festivals during Onam period  and their local regatta events.On Thiruvonam day and Uthrittati day all the oarsmen reach  the Aranmula temple on snake boats  and  they are provided sumptuous feast in the temple premises.For this feast known as 'Valla Sadya' vegetarian dishes and sweets of average 50 varieties are served on banana leaves.As a belief many other people also provide feast to the oarsmen on other days by inviting them to Aranmula temple for getting  blessings  from the God.The Aranmula snake boats  are around 140feet long which can carry more than 100 oarsmen and are adorned with golden lace,flag,colorful umbrellas and festoon which creates pageantry.Usually these Palliyodams moves slowly singing 'Vanchipattu'(special songs meant for this purpose).Earlier at Aranmula there was no race held  but  the mere display of   snake boats and other boats was the custom  but boat  races was started recently  to boost the enthusiasm of participants and spectators.
Thazhathangadi vallamkali which is held at Thazhathangadi river at Kottayam on the first saturday after Thiruvonam day,Kallada boat race,Karuvatta boat race,Indira Gandhi regatta at Kochi Lake,Ranny Boat race,Ayiroor boat race,Chengannur Mundancavu Chathayam Boat Race,Chengannur Pandanadu Muriayikkara Gosalakrishna Vallamkali,Mannar Mahatma Boat race etc are  important boat races during the next one and a half month period.